Aoun vows to stay in office until he ‘exposes all corrupt elements’

Aoun vows to stay in office until he ‘exposes all corrupt elements’
ebanese President Michel Aoun meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon March 30, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 31 March 2022

Aoun vows to stay in office until he ‘exposes all corrupt elements’

Aoun vows to stay in office until he ‘exposes all corrupt elements’
  • Lebanese president urges voters to ‘make right choice’ in upcoming parliamentary elections
  • Questioning of Lebanon’s central bank governor on corruption charges postponed to June 9

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun has called on voters to “make the right choice” in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Aoun, whose term ends next October, also confirmed on Thursday that he will not leave office unless he “uncovers all corrupt elements since the responsibility for reforming the country lies with those who will succeed him.”

He stressed “the need to reform the judiciary and other institutions of the state,” adding that “there can be no reform as long as institutions are controlled.”

The Lebanese parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 15.

With 46 days remaining in the current parliamentary term, the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati is due to end on May 22.

A total of 42 of 1,044 candidates, including six women, had withdrawn their candidacy by late on Wednesday. 

Wednesday midnight was the deadline for the withdrawal of candidates who have not found a place in the electoral lists being formed to contest the elections.

Fatin Younis, director-general for political affairs and refugees, whose department receives candidacies, predicted that “the lists will be clear with the expiration of the deadline for registration at midnight on Monday, April 4.”

The countdown to the last deadline to register the lists began on Thursday.

Younis said: “Six lists have been registered on Thursday and the number is expected to rise on Friday, and rise again on Monday after the weekend.”

Younis said that “a problem related to the required documentation faced a number of candidates who wanted to withdraw on Wednesday, having found no place for them in the lists that are in place.”

She added: “They preferred to leave things as they are for their candidacy to drop automatically with the announcement of the lists.”

The announcement of the electoral lists has begun in the media.

Among them is a list headed by MP Fouad Makhzoumi, president of the National Dialogue Party, in the Beirut II district. It is the second list to be announced after the civil society list of the same district.

Most political parties have completed their lists, while others are still working on theirs or are facing disputes between the candidates.

A surprising alliance has emerged between the Socialist Progressive Party and the Lebanese Forces Party in some constituencies.

Wael Abou Faour, a member of the Socialist Progressive Party, said: “Each party will have its own status in other constituencies that are common between both parties.”

The Samir Kassir Foundation has issued a report on the handling of issues related to freedom of expression and democratic frameworks by parties taking part in the parliamentary elections.

The foundation monitored 27 parties and congregations and found that “non-sectarian movements are the most dedicated to discussing the issue of freedom of expression or democracy, including what are considered alternative parties that were founded or emerged after 2011.”

It said that “traditional parties tend to revive a more divisive discourse based on the distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ and adopt a more focused position on this subject.”

The foundation added that “alternative movements generally rely on the idea of ‘combating assassinations’ as part of broader and more comprehensive ideas regarding their view of the existing regime and its repressive instruments as a whole.”

In parallel with the electoral developments, the lead investigating judge in Mount Lebanon, Nicolas Mansour, adjourned Central Bank Gov. Riad Salameh’s questioning until June 9 — after the date of the parliamentary elections — in the Public Prosecution’s case filed against him over claims of “money laundering and illicit enrichment.”

Salameh did not appear for questioning and was represented by his attorney, Chaouki Azan, who presented formal pleadings.

In parallel, judge Mansour decided to release the governor’s brother Raja Salameh, who was arrested on the same charge, in return for a financial guarantee and the seizure of his funds in Lebanon.

Raja Salameh’s attorney appealed to the Mount Lebanon Accusation Authority to reduce bail.


UAE urges UN to drop ‘Islamic State’ name when referring to Daesh

UAE urges UN to drop ‘Islamic State’ name when referring to Daesh
Updated 6 sec ago

UAE urges UN to drop ‘Islamic State’ name when referring to Daesh

UAE urges UN to drop ‘Islamic State’ name when referring to Daesh

The UAE has called on United Nations organizations to stop using the term ‘Islamic State’ when referring to Da’esh, during the UN Security Council in New York, arguing that the extremists should not be associated with the religion. 
 
UAE Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative and Chargé d’Affaires, Mohamed Abushahab said ijn his address that organizations should not “permit Daesh and other groups to hijack a religion of tolerance and give credence to their pretences.”  
 
“There is nothing Islamic about terrorism,” he added. 

Abushahab’s statement came as the UN recognized that the threat posed by Daesh and its affiliates remained ‘global and evolving’. 
 
“Daesh and its affiliates continue to exploit conflict dynamics, governance fragilities and inequality to incite, plan and organize terrorist attacks,” said UN counter-terrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov, as he presented the Secretary-General’s fifteenth report. 
 
Abushahab stressed that the fight against terrorism went beyond Daesh, as the ‘fight against Al-Qaeda remains a global priority’ especially after ‘the organization enters a leadership vacuum, following the death of Ayman Al-Zawahiri.’ 
 
During his address, he said technology could be a “double-edged sword” that can be used to improve people’s quality of life in one respect, but misused by terrorist groups in the other. 
 
Abushahab said ‘emerging technologies have tremendous potential to aid in efforts to prevent counter, and address terrorism.’ 
 
And he said the council ‘must focus on preventing the emergence of the next generation of terrorists and extremists,’ referring to the recruitment of children at refugee camps. 
 
“At Al-Hol camp, more than 25,000 children are at potential risk of radicalization,” said Abushahab. “Genuine efforts must be made to give these children hope for a more peaceful and prosperous future.” 
 
He concluded his remarks by calling on the international community to ‘seize this opportunity and act now’ to eliminate Daesh and other terrorist groups.


Egyptian, Qatari leaders hold talks

Egyptian, Qatari leaders hold talks
Updated 25 min 42 sec ago

Egyptian, Qatari leaders hold talks

Egyptian, Qatari leaders hold talks

CAIRO: Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed the latest regional developments, particularly the situation in the Gaza Strip, where Cairo brokered a truce that ended last week’s fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad.

During the phone call, Sheikh Tamim and El-Sisi also discussed measures to strengthen bilateral ties.

The emir expressed his gratitude for Egypt’s efforts to strengthen regional peace and security.


Iran navy says repelled attack on ship in Red Sea

Iran navy says repelled attack on ship in Red Sea
Updated 32 min 49 sec ago

Iran navy says repelled attack on ship in Red Sea

Iran navy says repelled attack on ship in Red Sea
  • Navy escort flotilla was headed by the destroyer Jamaran

TEHRAN: An Iranian naval flotilla thwarted an overnight attack on an Iranian vessel in the Red Sea, a senior commander said Wednesday.
“The escort flotilla of the naval arm of Iran’s armed forces, headed by the destroyer Jamaran... promptly deployed to the scene last night after receiving a request for help from an Iranian ship in the Red Sea, and engaged with the attacking boats,” said the navy’s deputy head of operations, Rear Admiral Mustafa Tajeddini.
“Thanks to the effective (naval) presence and after heavy exchanges, the attacking boats made off,” he told state television.
Tajeddini did not give details of the ship which was targeted or of who was suspected of mounting the attack.
In November 2021, pirates attempted to seize an Iranian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden, ISNA news agency said at the time.
Two weeks earlier, an Iranian warship repelled an attack by pirates against two oil tankers that it was escorting in the Gulf of Aden.
Like other countries dependent on the shipping lane through the Red Sea and Suez Canal, Iran stepped up its naval presence in the Gulf of Aden after a wave of attacks by Somalia-based pirates between 2000 and 2011.
But the number of attacks has fallen sharply in recent years.


US and Iran study text of revived nuclear deal

US and Iran study text of revived nuclear deal
Updated 10 August 2022

US and Iran study text of revived nuclear deal

US and Iran study text of revived nuclear deal
  • EU expects quick decision on 25-page document after Vienna talks conclude

JEDDAH: The final text of a proposed new nuclear deal with Iran has been sent to Washington and Tehran amid rising expectations that a revived agreement is imminent.

The EU said on Tuesday it expected a rapid response from the two capitals. “There is no more space for negotiations,” EU foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano said. “We have a final text. So it’s the moment for a decision, yes or no. And we expect all participants to take this decision very quickly.”

Talks concluded in Vienna on Monday aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 agreement with world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions on Tehran. The original deal collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out and reimposed sanctions.

Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia, as well as the US indirectly, resumed talks on the issue last week, after a months-long hiatus. The EU-coordinated negotiations began in April 2021 before coming to a standstill in March.

FASTFACT

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who coordinated the talks, said the text of a proposed new deal had been submitted to the countries involved for a political decision on whether to accept it. Iran said it was studying the 25-page document.

“What can be negotiated has been negotiated, and it’s now in a final text,” Borrell said. “However, behind every technical issue and every paragraph lies a political decision that needs to be taken in the capitals.”

Key challenges to a revived deal remain. European officials urged Iran to drop its “unrealistic demands” outside the scope of the original agreement, including those related to an International Atomic Energy Agency probe into undeclared nuclear material found in Iran.

Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani has flown back to Tehran for political consultations, but the final decision will be made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The US said the new draft was “the best and only basis on which to reach a deal.” The State Department said: “Our position is clear: We stand ready to quickly conclude a deal on the basis of the EU’s proposals.” Thedeal’s restoration was up to Iran, it said. “They repeatedly say they are prepared for a return to mutual implementation. Let’s see if their actions match their words.”


Crushed by war, Syrian tourism eyes expat uptick

A visitor uses a mobile phone as she walks at Al Azem Palace in Damascus, Syria July 31, 2022. (REUTERS)
A visitor uses a mobile phone as she walks at Al Azem Palace in Damascus, Syria July 31, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 August 2022

Crushed by war, Syrian tourism eyes expat uptick

A visitor uses a mobile phone as she walks at Al Azem Palace in Damascus, Syria July 31, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • Foreign visitors to Syria today come mostly from countries that have good relations with President Bashar al-Assad's government
  • Syria's economy is in dire straits, hurt by factors including a precipitous decline in the currency's value since 2019, prompted by neighbouring Lebanon's financial collapse

DAMASCUS: Somar Hazim had high hopes when he opened a hotel in Damascus in 2009, adding to a growing number of boutique guest houses in the Old City that were proving to be a hit with tourists, before war broke out and forced him to close down.
Although security returned to Damascus years ago, big-spending foreign visitors have not, with Syria still fractured by war.
Hazim has no plans to reopen his Beit Rose Hotel, an 18th century house with rooms set around a picturesque courtyard, a decision that reflects the weakness of tourism and the wider economy of a country suffering from 11 years of conflict.

People sit at a rooftop lounge in Damascus, Syria August 3, 2022. (REUTERS)

“The number of foreign tourists in Syria — as they were before 2011 ... are still few,” said Hazim, smoking a water pipe at a cafe he owns in another old Damascene house. But he sees a glimmer of hope: more Syrian expats are visiting.
At its peak in 2010, Syria attracted 10 million tourists, many of them Westerners. That all changed in 2011 with the onset of the war that has killed at least 350,000 people and uprooted half the population, forcing millions abroad as refugees.
Foreign visitors to Syria today come mostly from countries that have good relations with President Bashar Assad’s government. They include Iraqis, Lebanese and Iranians on pilgrimage to sites revered by Shiite Muslims.

A man and a woman play backgammon at Somar Hazim's cafe in Damascus, Syria July 31, 2022. (REUTERS)

Visitor numbers rose to 750,000 in the first half of 2022 from 570,000 in the same period of 2021, Tourism Minister Mohammed Rami Martini told Reuters, attributing the rise to the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
He expects visitor numbers this year to recover to levels last seen in 2018 and 2019.
“We have close to 100,000 Iraqis, and there are Lebanese and others from friendly states. But the biggest number are the expatriates,” he said, describing this as a boost to the economy because they spend amounts similar to foreign tourists.
Syria’s economy is in dire straits, hurt by factors including a precipitous decline in the currency’s value since 2019, prompted by neighboring Lebanon’s financial collapse.

Sami Alkodaimi, a Syrian expatriate who lives in Saudi Arabia, uses his laptop at his home in Damascus, Syria August 6, 2022. (REUTERS)

Subsidies on essential goods have been gradually lifted, with prices of items such as fuel rising to unprecedented levels.
Although the currency’s collapse has boosted the purchasing power of expatriates visiting with wads of foreign currency, the gaps in some basic provisions has been frustrating.
Sami Alkodaimi, a Syrian expatriate who lives in Saudi Arabia, stayed away from the country from 2011 to 2019, during the peak of the country’s conflict.
In Syria this summer, Alkodaimi said he felt less hope during this visit, noting higher prices, fuel shortages, and poor electricity provision in the heat of summer.
“I came in my car from Riyadh. The gasoline issue is very annoying. We are trying to obtain it, but with difficulty,” he said.